Thursday, March 31, 2016

EPA charges against Rep. Holt dropped, complaint withdrawn. Media conviction was premature.

Rep. Andy Holt
The media had a field day painting Republican Representative Andy Hold of  Dresden Tennessee as a major evil polluter and left the impression that he had been found guilty of committing  some terrible offense and the only thing to be determined was his punishment. He was alleged to have dumped thousands of gallons of hog waste into a stream. 

I like clean water and don't know what the standard should be and would prefer that no waste of any kind ever flows into a waterway, but I also like bacon and ham do not want to make it impossible for people to raise hogs. What I don't like is for the media to convict someone of a something and then discover that the media conviction was premature.  Here is how the Nashville Scene reported the story: The Farmer from Hog Dump: EPA Fines Rep. Holt $177K for Unauthorized Dumping.  Other media was almost as bad. Well, what do you know; the charges have been dropped and the complaint has been withdrawn (link). Below is a press release from Rep. Holt's office.

NASHVILLE, March 30, 2016—The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has ended their investigation into State Rep. Andy Holt’s family farm and subsequently dropped their complaint.

“This has been an interesting process,” said Holt. “I’m thankful for those that have stood by my family and me over the past several months.”

Last Summer, the EPA filed a complaint against Holt’s family farm for discharging lagoon waste after historic rainfall compromised the levies in previous years.  A timely answer was filed by Holt, and there were motions to amend both the complaint & the answer. The matter was subsequently referred to an administrative judge for an alternative dispute resolution process.

“We self-reported all of this to the State and were cleared to discharge,” said Holt. “Nothing was ever hidden or kept secret. I did exactly what the State told me to do.”

On March 24, 2016, the EPA filed a motion to withdraw their complaint against Holt. The motion was not opposed by Holt and on March 25, 2016, the administrative law judge granted the motion and dismissed the action.

“I suppose what I find most interesting about this whole situation is how the media took it upon themselves to play jury and executioner,” continued Holt. “Multiple outlets made claims that the EPA had fined me hundreds of thousands of dollars.  Obviously, none of that is true. I was never fined a single penny.”

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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

NashvilleNext Receives National Planning Award from the American Planning Association

Press Release, Washington, D.C. – NashvilleNext, a three-year regional planning effort providing a 25-year vision for Metro Nashville/Davidson County, Tennessee, has been named recipient of the American Planning Association’s (APA) prestigious 2016 Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan.

APA’s Daniel Burnham Award for a Comprehensive Plan is presented annually to a plan that advances planning—the work of building and enriching communities. The award is named for Daniel Burnham, one of the nation’s most renowned urban planners.

A combined effort by city planners, 17 metro departments, and over 18,500 community participants, NashvilleNext provides a plan of action to achieve the community’s long-term vision. It addresses seven distinct elements, updates all 14 of Nashville’s community plans, and refreshes the planning commission’s multimodal transportation and right-of-way plans.

“NashvilleNext is a true community-driven plan to guide and grow Nashville in a way that benefits everyone,” said Doug Sloan, Executive Director of Nashville’s Metropolitan Planning Department. “Receiving this award is an honor for Nashville itself, as so many community members were involved in the planning and continue to work toward implementing our vision to become an even greater city.”

The planning process was guided by four core values or goals for the city: opportunity and inclusion, economic prosperity, healthy environment, and efficient government. The planning staff focused on the contributing interests that most affect the daily lives of residents. From the extensive public engagement, two themes emerged as key issues: preserving rural and neighborhood character, culture, and diversity; and improving affordability, transit, and economic opportunity.

“The thorough approach NashvilleNext took to understanding the diverse concerns of the community in updating its general plan is a model for comprehensive city planning everywhere,” said W. Shedrick Coleman, 2016 APA Awards Jury chair.  “Community involvement is the foundation of sound planning and the surest indicator of its success.”

Read more about NashvilleNext.

The 2016 APA National Planning Award recipients will be honored at a special luncheon on April 4, 2016, during the APA National Planning Conference in Phoenix, Arizona. The award winners will also be featured in the April 2016 issue of Planning magazine. For a list of all of the APA 2016 National Planning Excellence and Achievement Award recipients, visit www. planning.org/award.

APA’s national awards program, the profession’s highest honor, is a proud tradition established more than 50 years ago to recognize outstanding community plans, planning programs and initiatives, public education efforts, and individuals for their leadership on planning issues.

The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities.APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the art, science, and profession of good planning–physical, economic and social–so as to create communities that offer better choices for where and how people work and live. APA has offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago. For more information, visit www.planning.org .

My Comment: I guess we should feel honored and pleased, but somehow I don't.  What does it mean to say the plan had 18,500 participants.  That somehow is supposed to give the plan legitimacy. Some of the 18,500 participants are people who visited the website once or answered one survey.  Also, those at the meetings were not a representative cross section of Nashville; they were people who care a lot about planning issues or particular topics. If the session was on housing, there were not normal people at that session, there were advocates of affordable housing and the same for other session devoted to particular topics. 

I sort of feel like the process was a sham. I think the 18,500 participants were just props to justify a preconceived notion of what should be in the plan. I felt part of the plan was boilerplate text and they just changed the name of the city.  I don't really believe, "NashvilleNext is a true community-driven plan to guide and grow Nashville in a way that benefits everyone."

I did take part. I went to several of the public sessions.  I heard from some good speakers and enjoyed some thought provoking discussion. I put little sticky dots on various policy options. I played on the NashvilleNext website. I think all of this public participation however was designed to make it feel like like "a true community-driven plan."

I don't know how much this process cost. If you go to the NashvilleNext website you do not find that information. I think we would have been just as well served if the staff of the planning commission would have developed a plan, presented it to the Planning Commission, and after their approval it was sent to the Metro Council to be adopted after the Council had a public hearing. I would have felt like it was as much "my" plan as I feel the NashvilleNext is "my" plan. A mass of people cannot draw up a plan and 18,500 people can not develop a plan. Representative Democracy already has a mechanism for conducting the affairs of the public.

The plan is hundreds of pages long. I have not read it. I doubt many of the 18,500 participants have read it either, but it will give policy makers a justification for doing whatever they want to do, when they say, "It is in the NashvilleNext Plan. That is what the people of Nashville want."

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Mayor Barry to Deliver State of Metro Address at Ascend Amphitheater

Press Release, 3/30/2016, NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Office of Mayor Megan Barry has filed a resolution with the Metro Council to announce that the 53rd Annual State of Metro Address will be held at Ascend Amphitheater on Friday, April 29 from 11:30am to 12:30pm.

“This is an exciting opportunity to highlight the priorities of my administration as expressed in my budget proposal and share my vision for the future of Metro Nashville,” said Mayor Barry. “I hope the public will come out and join me, along with the Metro Council and other Metro officials, in this momentous occasion that will help set the tone of our city for the year to come.”

The State of Metro Address will include important details about the Mayor’s budget proposal, which will be presented to the Metro Council following the event. In addition to remarks from Mayor Barry, the event will include performances by Metro high school marching bands, the city’s youth poet laureate, and a special musical guest.

WHO: Mayor Megan Barry, Vice Mayor David Briley, Metro Councilmembers and special invited guests
WHAT: 53rd Annual State of Metro Address
WHEN: Friday, April 29, 2016 at 11:30am
WHERE: Ascend Amphitheater

Members of the public are encouraged to attend. For counting purposes only, attendees can RSVP online. Seating will be on a first-come, first-serve basis on the stage of Ascend Amphitheater, with overflow seating available in the seats just beyond the stage. Local food trucks will be on hand outside of Ascend for attendees wishing to purchase lunch.

My Comment: That is a good reasonable time and an accessible place. I could never get up early enough to go to one of those 7:30AM speeches.  I will try to go to this one.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

State Senate approves ban on mandatory inclusionary zoning

In a move to stop local governments from adopting mandatory so-called "inclusionary zoning" regulations, the State Senate voted 26-3 yesterday to approve Senate Bill 1636, which would prohibit such policies.  The bill would prohibit mandating that builders build a certain number of affordable units but would not prohibit cities from using incentives that reward builders who include affordable units.

Mandatory inclusionary zoning policies usually mandate that if a builder is approved to build new housing or convert a rental complex to a condo complex, that a certain percent of the units must be set aside as "affordable."  Affordable may mean different things to different people but it is generally agreed that housing is "affordable" if it does not exceed 31% of a persons gross monthly income. Most inclusionary zoning regulations attempt to set aside a certain number of units that will be affordable for a family making 80% of the area median income but some cities require it to be affordable at much lower levels of income.

As an example of what price point we are speaking of, in Nashville 80% of the area median income for a family for four is $53,500. Doing the math ($53,500/12 months x 31%) means this family could afford a house or rent payment of $1383 a month. Given the current prevailing interest rates of 4% on a 30-year fixed mortgage that would finance about a $220,000 house.  That payment would include principal, interest, taxes, insurance, mortgage insurance premium  and any mandatory condo or HOA fees. So if metro had a bill that said 14 percent of all units in a development had to be affordable, and the developers was building 100 units of housing that are priced at $400,000, to sell 14 of them at a price of $220,000 would mean the developer would have to increase the price on all of the other units by about $29,000 in order to generate the same revenue.  The effect of this is that some people who previously could have been able to afford a $400,000 house may not be able to afford a $420,000 house.

If the requirement is that 18% be priced affordable, the price for all other houses in the development would have to be even greater. If the requirement should be that the house be affordable for a family of four making 60% or the area median income, the price of the remaining houses would have to be even higher. If the requirement was that the set aside units be affordable for a family of three or two rather than a family or four, the price would have to be much lower still for the set aside units. An inclusionary zoning policy is essentially taking someones property by forcing them to sell it at a price lower than for what they want to sell it.

Some unanswered questions, or at least questions which I do not know the answer to, is do the "affordable" units have to be of the same size and quality of the affordable units?  Also, when speaking of upscale condo's in a downtown area, the amenities may include valet services, dog walking services, concierge services, swimming pool, gym and fresh cut flowers. Is the person who gets one of the set-aside affordable units entitled to all of the same amenities?  If all of the other units have granite counter tops does the set-aside units also get granite counter tops?

Rental price controls were already illegal in Tennessee, so when Nashville considered an inclusionary zoning proposal they were essentially talking about price control in the homes-for-sale market. In July 2015 the Metro Council passed an ordinance that directed the Planning Commission to develop an inclusionary zoning ordinance to present to the Council. That directives said such rules should establish that 14% of the units in any new development or renovation of existing developments or conversion of existing rental developments to for-purchase units, be set aside as "affordable."  It defined "affordable," as affordable to someone making between 60% and 120% of the area median area income.

Since that time, the Planning Commission hired a consultant and  held hearings and developed a proposal that while still bad, was not near as bad as it could be.  It depended more on incentives than mandates. It shifted some incentives that currently promote "green" and energy efficient development and some incentives that promote other desired objectives to incentives that reward developers for setting aside units that are priced to be affordable.

The result of what the Planning Commission has proposed it that no one is happy.  The Chamber of Commerce and several other pro-development organizations have taken a stand against it because it does too much and places too much of a burden on developers and the liberal groups that advocate for the poor and many in the affordable housing community do not like it because it does not go far enough.

I am pleased to see this bill advance in the Senate. On every occasion I have had to speak one-on-one with a State legislator I have urged them to pass such a prohibition.  Inclusionary zoning is simply wrong and it is also ineffective. To help some people, it prices other people out of the market and in practice where it is in place it has produced very few units of affordable housing. Some studies show that it actually can make housing less affordable. Nashville will still probably grapple with some sort of proposal that will be called "inclusionary zoning" but if what passed the senate passes the house, at least it will not be a mandatory program.

For more on this latest development see, Tennessee Lawmakers Move To Block Mandatory Affordable Housing Requirements.

For much more on Nashville's effort to impose inclusionary zoning, follow this link

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Monday, March 28, 2016

1st Tuesday meets April 5th. Guest speaker Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey

From Tim Skow:

1ST TUESDAY Members and friends:

A bit over 9 years ago I began seeking speakers for a group of sometimes 20 people named 1ST TUESDAY. A rare Republican leader who had never heard of 1st TUESDAY [ or Tim Skow as I recall ] … returned my call and said, "Why sure I will come and speak! Tell me about your group’’.

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey
Since then, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey has been 1ST TUESDAY’s ‘’1st Friend’’ ... and our most frequent Speaker. On Tuesday, April 5th our ‘’1st Friend’’ will return for a final time as the notable Lt. Gov. of Tennessee!

Often I tout the laurels of our upcoming Speaker. In this case, our ‘’1st Friend of 1ST TUESDAY’’ needs no touting! No doubt, we will get an earful of what is happening in the TN Legislature and political insights at all levels.

With a room full of longtime friends, important guests and stories galore, this will be a memorable 1ST TUESDAY unlike ANY other! Doors open at 11am at Waller Law - 511 Union Street 27th floor. Lunch from Copper Kettle is $20 for Members - $25 for Guests.

Secure seating for you and your friends at www.1sttuesdaynashville.com and click on “Join Us’’. [visit our Sponsors websites. Including Danielle Spence at Servis 1st Bank ] Please pass on this invite to Republicans you know who also appreciate Lt. Gov. Ramsey for all he’s done for Tennessee! See you Tuesday, April 5th for a most memorable day at 1ST TUESDAY!

Tim Skow,  Host of 1ST TUESDAY

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Stop making me like Trump!



This pretty much sums up my feeling too.  If you protest by blocking access to your opponents rally, then I am probably for whatever it is you are protesting.  The more that people like Bill Ayers, Michael Moore, Al Sharpton, and Rosie O'Donnell denounce Trump, the more I like him and I don't want to like him. He is scary, he a pompous narcissist, he is not a conservative, he has no core values; but, I so detest his outspoken enemies that they are making me warm to Trump.  Anyone so hated by the worst people in America, just can't be all that bad.  Please stop making me like Trump!

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Sunday, March 27, 2016

Mayor Barry wraps up most budget hearings. Everyone wants more money

Mayor Megan Barry wrapped up the Mayor's budget hearings  this past week for almost all departments, and it looks like everyone wants more money. The Mayor is yet to hear from the Schools and that is the department of local governments that gets the biggest share of metro dollars.

As reported in today's Tennessean here are the budget increase request from various departments:

  • Police, $12.1 million
  • Metro Hospital Authority, $7.5 million
  • Fire $7.1 million
  • Sheriff, no operating subsidy increase but $20 Million for capital request
  • Emergency Communications, $14.1 milliion
  • Parks, $2.9 million
  • Libraries, $1.9 million
  • Public Works, $3 million
  • Metro Arts Commission, $2.3 million
  • Metro Planning Department, $1 million
That is a lot of additional money being requested and schools will request a lot. After the Mayor hears from Schools and gets any follow up information she might have requested, then the finance department will estimate revenues for the coming year. The biggest source of revenue is the property tax, followed by the sales tax.  Some agencies such as Metro Water operate off of their own user fees. In the case of the water department they are funded by users when users pay their water bill. Some other departments get a significant portion of their budget from federal or state pass through dollars or from user fees.

Once the Finance Department has projected revenues, then the Mayor's office will draw up a proposed Metro Budget.  This budget is presented to the Council, then the council holds budget hearings and may reject the mayor's budget or substitute and pass their own budget. Usually the Council tweaks the mayor's budget and calld the tweaked version of the budget "the council's" budget and substitutes that budget for the mayor's budget.  This then is the "substitute budget" or also it may be called "the council's budget."

There is a lot of confusion about the budget process.  You have no doubt heard council members say they voted against the budget. They often leave the impression that they were voting against a budget that raised taxes. I hate to tell you this but you are being mislead if the councilman left the impression they he was voting against a budget because it raised taxes. When the Council rejects a substitute budget or simply votes "no" on the mayor's budget, the mayor's budget become the official city budget anyway.  That is the way the charter is written.  So, if the mayor's budget would have required a  50 cent tax rate increase and the substitute budget would have required a 42 cent tax rate increase, the effect of voting against the substitute budget requiring a 42 cent tax rate increase is to vote instead for a budget requiring a 50 cent tax rate increase. I don't like that that is the way the charter is written, but that is the way it is and the public ought to know when they are being misled. A "no" vote for the substitute budget before the council is in effect a vote for the mayor's budget.

So, once the mayor presents her budget, the council will tweak it, substitutes the tweaked version for the original mayors budget and pass it. The mayor has already said she will not propose a tax increase this year, but no doubt the council will move a few dollars around in the budget and substitute anyway. They always do.

The current metro budget is $1.96 billion. Without raising taxes, revenue growth will result in a budget that exceeds $2billion this year.  Metro has never said, "we are bring in more revenue than last year, so why don't we cut taxes."  It just doesn't happen.  There is no pressure to cut taxes and there is always pressure to grow government. The mayor has said she will not raise taxes this year, but I am prepared for the mother of all metro tax increases in 2017, unless their is massive outpouring of opposition, and I don't see that happening and really doubt it would change the outcome anyway.

To read the latest from The Tennessean about the budget see, Nashville mayor borrows from 'Shark Tank' during budget process.

To understand why we can expect a major tax increase in 2017 see,  No tax increase in 2016 but look for a whopper of an increase in 2017!

For a deeper understanding of the Metro Budget and the budgeting process  and to see where the money comes from and where it goes see, Citizens' Guide to the Metro Budget.

To watch the individual budget hearing conducted by the mayor and to watch the department heads justify their budget increase request see, MetroGovNashville-Youtube. From the list of videos, find the department of government that interest you or sample a few of the hearings.


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Simple math shows marriage is crucial to ending poverty

I am firmly convinced that the number one cause of poverty is children born out of wedlock. "Out of wedlock" is a quaint term now and is almost never used anymore, but it should be.  Instead of treating an unmarried women who has children as someone meriting of praise, in my view, when an unmarried  women gives birth it should still be shameful. Instead of celebrated an unmarried birth it should be shamed and pitied.

Study after study shows a correlation between marital status and family poverty.  That should not be a surprise. Correlation does not prove cause and effect of course but there are reason why a parents marital status correlates to poverty.  There is almost as much correlation to marital status of the parents and poverty as there is to education level of the parents and poverty. We cannot significantly reduce poverty until we again make it the norm that people marry before having children.

Brad Wilcox in a piece published in AEI says just because "putting a ring on it" won’t cure all poverty, that doesn't mean marriage is irrelevant. Below is a chart from the study that illustrates the correlation between the marital status of the parents and poverty. To read his article follow this link: The math favors married parents.




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National Popular Vote is a terrible idea. Please urge your legislators to vote "no."

The following is reposted from  the Tennessee Eagle Forum newsletter:

NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE:
SB 1657 by *Tracy,(HB 1728) by *Sexton C
Election Laws - As introduced, adopts the interstate compact to elect the president by national popular vote.

You will not want to miss the brief excellent video:
The Popular Vote vs. the Electoral College



STATUS:  I hardly know where to start.  The House Local Government Committee met on Tuesday.  They got to HB1728 about 9:25am with the State Coordinator of Elections, Mark Goins, telling the committee that one thing wrong with this bill was that the caption didn't open the proper parts of the TN Code Annotated and that, should it pass, it would go to court. Strangely, Chairman Tim Wirgau called on the opponents of the bill testify first.  (Normally proponents of the legislation before the committee testify first.)  John Ryder, Legal Council for the Republican National Committee and TN National Committeeman; Linda Knight, a local attorney, Hans A. von Spakovsky, Manager, Election Law Reform Initiative and Senior Legal Fellow, The Heritage Foundation, and Sean Parnell, President, Impact Policy Management, LLC., Alexandria VA., did an excellent job of explaining why the NPV is a terrible idea. When their time was up, the proponents testified:  Sherry Phillips (Judson Phillips' wife), Michael Steel, former Republican National Committee Chair and former Lt. Governor Maryland, Rob Johnson, former State Senator in OK.  After their time was up  opponents were given another opportunity to speak, this time including a young man, Steven Puckett (a democrat) if I got his name right.. Then the proponents including Pat Rosensteel from the National Popular Vote, were given a few more minutes.  By then, the time in the committee had expired, so sponsor, Rep. Sexton made a few remarks and rolled the bill until next week, then the committee adjourned.
So.......HB1728 is back on the Local Government Committee on
Tuesday at 3:00pm
SB1657 is in the Senate State and Local Government Committee on Tuesday at 10:30am.


ACTION:  Please contact these legislators and URGE them to vote NO on this legislation:
sen.richard.briggs@capitol.tn.govsen.ed.jackson@capitol.tn.gov, rep.marc.gravitt@capitol.tn.gov, rep.tim.wirgau@capitol.tn.gov.

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Nashville is the number 1 of "The 25 Best US Cities To Spend a Weekend."

Thrillist Travel listed The 25 Best US Cities to Spend a Weekend and (drum roll, please),  Nashville came in at number one!


1. Nashville, TN

Must-eat/drink: Hot chicken/a Goo Goo Cluster (or three) and a Bushwhacker at Edley's

Don't leave without: Going to church, and we mean the Mother Church

Weekend highlights: Nashville is rapidly becoming as synonymous with food as it is music -- hello hot chicken and BBQ! -- attracting as many celebrity chefs as musicians and plenty of opportunities for delicious collaborations. (Planning a trip in the fall? Check out Music City Food + Wine Festival, founding members include Kings of Leon and chef Jonathan Waxman.) Take a guided tour of all the foodie hotspots with Walk Eat Nashville, hop on a Nashville Brew Bus to explore the local craft breweries, or treat your party to whiskey tastings at nearby distilleries like Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery and Corsair Distillery.

Having a great time in Nashville doesn’t mean you have to deplete your savings. There are more than 150 venues in town and many of them offer live music every night for FREE. And the honky tonks on Lower Broad play all day long, too -- just don’t forget cash for the tip jars. You can even catch a show while buying records at Grimey’s New & Preloved Music or attend a live-to-acetate recording at Jack White’s Third Man Records.

While you definitely should hit Ascend Amphitheater, a 6,800-capacity outdoor venue on the riverfront, if you want to take in a larger act, there’s no better sound in town than one coming from Ryman Auditorium. As for sports, depending on the season you're visiting, you've got the Tennessee Titans, Nashville Predators, and the new 10,000-seat First Tennessee Park to enjoy a Nashville Sounds game. (Watch from the outfield on the patio of The Band Box with a frozen whiskey and Coke in hand. Just a suggestion.) -- Kendall Mitchell Gemmill, Thrillist Nashville contributor

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No tax increase in 2016 but look for a whopper of an increase in 2017!


Mayor Megan Barry has announced that she will not seek a tax increase this year.  I am not surprised. It takes a while to get a handle on the needs and scope of Metro government and usually new mayors do not ask for a tax increase their first year in office. I do expect a large tax increase, however, in year 2017. Here is why.

Mayor Barry has a mandate to raise taxes. Like it or not, when Nashvillians went to the polls in 2015 we elected the most progressive candidate for mayor of the slate of candidates running.  Anyone who voted for Barry was essentially voting for a tax increase. We who want a more efficient and innovative government and less government, lost the election. Not only did the candidate for mayor most likely to raise taxes get elected, but in those contested council races in which the contest was between a less liberal candidate and a more liberal candidate, in almost every contest the more liberal candidate won. Elections have consequences.

Advocates for more and more government spending are relentless in their quest while opponents of tax increases only pay attention in the year of a proposed tax increase. I served in the Council in the decade of the 80's and have observed the operation of Metro government for many more years. Day in and day out, year in and year out, advocates of more spending push for their favorite cause; advocates of low taxes only speak out in the year of a proposed tax increase. If you watch the pubic hearing on the budget, in a year in which there is not a proposed tax increase, speaker after speaker will urge more funding for their favorite cause. There is an absence of those who call for abolishing departments or ending funding for any project or who point out wasteful spending or who call for reform or call for efficiency studies. No one ever says taxes should be cut. The pressure is always for more and more spending.

In 2012 when Mayor Dean raised taxes 12% there was a lot of people organized by The Nashville Tea Party wearing day-glow lime green tee shirts with the printed message "no tax."  These people have not been seen since.  In the meantime, the Council has heard from Friends of the Library, Friends of the Parks, advocates of saving General Hospital, family of firemen and policemen, advocates of more sidewalks and greenways, and advocates of public education. They have not heard from those concerned about waste and inefficiency and the burden of high taxes.  No one appears at the budget hearing arguing we should privatize General Hospital or abolish the Department of Human Relations. No one points out that one of the reasons we have less affordable housing is that high property taxes discourages new affordable housing and makes existing affordable housing less affordable.

Mayor Barry has structured the budget process to build a case for more taxes. Up until this year, the Mayor in giving direction to department heads to prepare for the Mayor's budget hearings would instruct them to present their budget and include in their presentation what cuts they would make if they got x% less than they requested. This year, Mayor Barry has asked department heads instead of following that "old model" to look ahead at the next three years and take a strategic approach to "solving our problems."  She is calling her budget hearings, "public investment plans." Even the formality of looking at cost saving is out the window.

Tax increases will be hidden in the reappraisal process.  This year all property in Nashville will be reappraised to reflect current market values. By law, a general reappraisal cannot result in more tax revenue. A reappraisal does not raise more taxes but equalized taxes to reflect current values. By law, the city must adopt a tax rate that bring in no more revenue than was realized before the reappraisal. What will most likely happen is that the council will adopt the new certified property tax rate and then in the same meeting, adopt a new higher tax rate. Since most of the public does not understand this process, they will blame much of their higher property taxes on the reappraisal.

Here is a link to The Tennessean's report on the Mayor's announcement that she would not be seeking a tax increase: Megan Barry rules out tax increase in first budget.

Below is Mayor Barry's budget announcement.

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More Americans Are Again Moving to Suburbs Than Cities

It is so easy to believe things that are simply not true.  For one thing, something may be said so much that you just assume it is true and secondly, your observation may influence your thinking when what you are observing may not be typical.  Until reading this article in the Wall Street Jornal, I would have thought that people are flocking to cities and that there had been a basic change in the way we live. Not so.

I myself like living in the city. Well, not exactly downtown but close to downtown. I would not want to live in a downtown high-rise condo. I would not want to give up my car.  I want do be able to dig in the dirt. I like flowers and having a yard. I live within two miles of the center of downtown however and can walk to a coffee shop, a couple restaurants, a couple convenience stores, and a Dollar General. I am within two miles of a Krogers, a liquor store, my bank and my drug store.  I am also within about 5 miles of several hospitals and my and my wife's doctors. I seldom have to drive further than five miles from my home. Downtown traffic doesn't bother me, because I can take Uber from my house to downtown cheaper than I can park. I would not want to live in the country.  The country is a nice place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there.

Seeing all the growth in Nashville, I had assumed every one wanted to live downtown and the suburbs had lost their appeal. Well, that is simply not correct. Except for a one year abnormality, the suburbs are growing faster than the urban areas.


There is no political point to this post except to say policy makers should base their policies on solid facts, not opinion, and issue like affordable housing, poverty, and mass transit and where to invest resources should not be based on faulty assumptions. It is undeniable that a change has occurred and continues to occur in many urban areas.  At one time, the cities were abandoned and left to be occupied by only poor people and now, cities are being "gentrified" and the poor are moving to the suburbs.  

Cities have become desirable places to live again but that does not mean most people do not still prefer to live in the suburbs. As this article points out, "population trends underscore that people flocking to cities remain a select class, mostly of the young, educated and affluent who can afford rising prices. In the meantime, America overall continues to suburbanize."  For more on this, read More Americans Are Again Moving to Suburbs Than Cities.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Metro General seeks $7.5M more, on top of a recent $10M more, on top of the budgeted $33.5M subsidy.

Metro's money pit known as Metro General hospital is seeking an additional $7.5 million dollars on top of the $10 million it received two months ago.  Is there no end!

Metro does not even have to be in the hospital business and should get out of it,  just as we got out of the nursing home business last year when the city privatized Bordeaux Long-term Care and Knowles Home Assisted Living and Adult Day Services, saving the city $10.5 million a year.

Many years ago there was a need for local governments to provide charity hospitals and many cities did. As healthcare changed and low income people no longer had to go to the charity hospitals but could go to the hospital of their choice, the justification for such safety net hospitals went away, but with government slow to change, many cities continued their funding of charity hospitals as did Nashville. Overtime other changes occurred which made General even less viable, such as more people being treated as outpatients rather than being admitted into hospitals and length of stay in hospitals being shortened.

Metro General Hospital opened as the City Hospital on April 23, 1890 as Nashville’s first full-service hospital. In 1891 the hospital started a school of nursing and in 1913 it opened a pediatric ward. The hospital grew and flourished until after World War II when admissions began declining. As more hospitals opened in Nashville customers had more choice. St. Thomas opened in 1898 and then Baptist Hospital, first known as the Protestant Hospital, opened in 1917. Park View, which was the first in what was to became a chain of hospitals known as HCA, opened in the mid 1960’s. Vanderbilt Hospital opened in the 1970’s and there have been numerous expansion and additions of other hospitals since then.

Not only did more choice mean less demand for General, but when Medicare and Medicaid were signed into law in 1965 that meant that low income people could go to any hospital and not depend on city charity. By the 1990’s General was facing a crisis. Not only did low income people have choice, but General, dependent on Metro’s level of funding, did not have the resources to acquire the latest in technology and equipment. Also the building, by this time a hundred years old, was in need of rebuilding or major rehabilitation.

Maharry Medical College was also facing a financial crisis in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. In an effort to help both institutions, in October 1991 Nashville approved of a plan to merge the Meharry Hospital with Metro General. The merger phased out services at the Metro General Hospital site on the bluffs of the Cumberland, now known as “Rolling Mill Hill,” and relocated services to Meharry-Hubbard hospital. General Hospital became the teaching hospital for Meharry Medical School and metro heavily subsidized the 116-bed facility.

General has had a difficult time competing with the many other hospitals in the area despite Metro’s generous subsidy, although the subsidy is not as generous as it was when the merger first occurred. Last year Metro’s subsidy was $33.5 million and then an additional $10 was appropriated two months ago.  Despite Metro’s continued subsidy of the hospital, the hospital struggles to attract patients. All Metro prisoners are treated at Mehary-General and Metro employees are given an advantageous deal if they will use Meharry, and yet still the hospital struggles.

In 2012 the city commissioned a study of Meharry-General conducted by the firm of Alvarez and Marsal. The study found that as currently operating Meharry General was not sustainable. One thing plaguing meharry is that it cannot fill its beds. They only have an occupancy rate to about 42%, but even if they operated at full capacity they would have a per patient loss per day of $1,602. The per patient loss is higher with fewer patients, but the overall loss would be greater with more patients.

The consultants offered a range of options for addressing the situation, ranging  from “maintaining the status quo to re-purposing the hospital as an ambulatory care facility with reduced inpatient services to a full scale re-design of the business model focused entirely on outpatient and clinical service.”

Last year Metro spun off its nursing homes and saved the city $10.5 million a year. A city owned nursing home is as about as archaic as a city poor farm, yet ending metro’s ownership and operation of a nursing home was not without its opponents and yet the city did it. Even Megan Barry voted to privatize Boudreaux and Knowles.

Running for office last year Megan Barry, as did all of the mayoral candidates, pledged to continue supporting Meharry. This speaks more to the influence of the Black vote than any rational reason to continue supporting Meharry.  I find it very disappointing that among a 40-member council there is not a single council member who will stand up and speak the truth, and that is, that a city charity hospital is not mandatory nor needed and Metro needs to get out of the hospital business. 

The read The Tennessean report on this development see  Metro General Hospital seeks $7.5M to pay late bills.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Conservative Groups meets Thursday March 31st. Guest speaker Dr. Omar Hamada

Our meeting this month will be held at Logan's Steak House on Elliston Place near Vanderbilt University. The meeting will be held on Thursday March 31, 2016 starting at 5:30PM for networking and the meeting will be from 6:00 to 7:00PM. The agenda for the meeting is a wake-up call for the state of Tennessee and the Nation. The agenda will concentrate on the importance of elections and the issues involved in the upcoming years through policies, new legislature, and the effects on the American People.

Concentration on Healthcare, insurance, and political issues will be the focus of this meeting. Dr. Our

Dr. Omar Hamada
keynote speaker is Dr. Omar Hamada is an obstetrician-gynecologist in Brentwood, Tennessee and is affiliated with multiple hospitals in the area, including Baptist Hospital and Baptist Memorial Hospital for Women. He received his medical degree from University of Tennessee College of Medicine and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He specializes in Obstetrics & Gynecology. He also speaks multiple languages, including Arabic, French and Italian. Omar L. Hamada, MD, MBA, (FAAFP | FACOG | FICS), USASOC, a heavily decorated veteran, Major of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne), is an accomplished physician and business executive in both civilian and military healthcare markets living in Nashville, Tennessee with his wife, Dr. Tara Hamada, and their four children.

Dr. Hamada will speak on the problems with Obama-Care and its far-reaching effects on the American Republic, the effects of this country moving away from our allies and entrusting our enemies, and what our approach should be in our Christian belief. We ask all interested in running for office to attend this event as well. Please RSVP to Tony Roberts at Chylon549@gmail.com or Dan Davis at ddd18247@gmail.com.

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Bellevue Republican Breakfast Club to meet April 2nd. Guest, Michael Patrick Leahy.

From Betty Hood:

Dear BRBC Friends,

Our monthly breakfast club will be meeting Saturday, April 2 at 8 AM at the Shoney’s on Hwy 70. Michael Patrick Leahy, a Breitbart News Contributor and author of Covenant of Liberty: The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement.

Our guest speaker will be

A native of upstate New York, Leahy is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University and has an MBA from Stanford University.  He has proudly been a resident of state income-tax-free Tennessee since 1991.

Leahy is best known for the key role he played in launching the Tea Party Movement in 2009. As founder of Top Conservatives on Twitter, and the associated well known #tcot hashtag, Leahy organized and hosted the conference call that launched the movement on February 20, 2009.

In Tennessee he is known for his role as the founder and leader of the BEAT LAMAR project, an independent SuperPAC that endorsed Joe Carr and conducted an independent door to door canvassing effort to support his candidacy. He is a frequent guest on Ralph Bristol's Nashville Morning News on 99.7 FM WWTN and occasionally guest hosts on that station for Dan Mandis and Michael DelGiorno. A top investigative journalist, Leahy proved that there is no credible evidence to support Sen. Elizabeth Warren's false claim that she has Native American ancestry. He also proved that liberal actor Ben Affleck has at least 14 slave holding ancestors, a fact Affleck and PBS host Henry Gates tried to conceal from the public.

Hope you will plan to be with us to hear Michael. See you soon!

Betty

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Joan Nixon Tapped as Interim Administrator for Election Commission

3/21/2016, NASHVILLE, Tenn., Press Release – Joan Nixon will serve as interim administrator for the Davidson County Election Commission while a search is underway to replace current administrator Kent Wall who retires March 31.

Nixon, a 30-year veteran of the Election Commission, currently serves as deputy administrator of elections.  “I’ve agreed to fill the role on a temporary basis and look forward to teaming with a new administrator for the upcoming elections,” Nixon said.

Nixon said she is not interested in applying for Wall’s position and is on the search committee for a new administrator. The Election Commission is working with Metro Nashville Department of Human Resources on the administrator search process.

“Joan has invaluable historical and election law knowledge, and we appreciate her willingness to step in as interim administrator,” said Jim DeLanis, chair of the Election Commission. “We’re working with Metro HR to identify qualified candidates, and I am confident we will have a new administrator in place before the August 4 State Primary and County General election.”

Wall announced his retirement from the Election Commission on Jan. 5, 2016. He is a business management and marketing professional and served as president of Johnston & Murphy Shoe Company before retiring. He came out of retirement in November 2013, when Davidson County Election Commissioners appointed him administrator and asked him to focus on recruitment of Poll Officials and upgrade election training and materials.

The Davidson County Election Commission is responsible for providing free and fair elections to every eligible citizen. The Election Commission is regulated by State of Tennessee law and funded by Metro Nashville government. The main office is located at 1417 Murfreesboro Pike, Nashville, TN 37217. For more information, visit www.nashville.gov/vote.

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Law Enforcement Investigative Files Are Not Public Records, Holds Tennessee Supreme Court

By Daniel Horwitz: [Disclosure:  The author filed an amicus curiae brief in support of the victim in this case on behalf of four organizations committed to preventing domestic and sexual violence.  The author’s brief is accessible here.]

In one of the most eagerly anticipated and hotly contested decisions in recent memory, the Tennessee Supreme Court has ruled 4-1 that the Nashville Police Department’s investigative records concerning the Vanderbilt rape case are not subject to disclosure under the Tennessee Public Records Act.  The Court’s ruling comes approximately ten months after the case’s closely-watched oral argument, which pitted a vast media coalition headlined by The Tennessean against Metro government, the Tennessee Attorney General’s Office, and the alleged victim in the case, who intervened to protect her privacy under the pseudonym “Jane Doe.” (continue reading)

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Davidson County Election results for the election of at-large delegates to the Republican Convention

Below is a partial list of the outcome of election in Davidson County for delegates to the Republican convention starting with those who got the most votes. This is only for Davidson County only and the election for at large delegates is statewide, so keep that in mind.  Also, just because someone got more votes than someone else that does not mean they are going to the convention as a delegate. The candidate to which they were pledged had to reach a threshold to win any delegates. These are just Davidson County numbers, but I think some Republican would find this interesting. I have not tried to identify every person, these are just the ones that jumped out at me. To see the full list follow this link.

Due to difficulty in formatting this post, I am breaking it into two parts. see the post below for the results of the 5th Congressional delegate election results.

 At Large
Candidate                                  Vote total

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5th Congressional District Republican convention delegate candidate vote totals

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Draft Housing Policy and Inclusionary Zoning Feasibility Study report now online

3/18/2016, Metro Gov. website - The Metro Planning Department has released the Draft Housing Policy and Inclusionary Zoning Feasibility Study report. The contents of this report reflect not only the research and analysis specified in the city’s request for proposal, but also analysis of specific relevant concerns, data, and issues that arose throughout the process of stakeholder involvement. In terms of involvement, this process included: three meetings with stakeholders (a group of 50 industry representatives, elected officials, developers, and advocates); two meetings with the Planning Commission, which were open to the public; a public open house; individual and group interviews with stakeholders; as well as targeted subject focus groups.
Read the Draft Housing Policy and Inclusionary Zoning Feasibility Study Report
Inclusionary Housing Discussion March 21
Inclusionary Housing Public Meeting March 22

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New Meetup: Tennessee Politics and Philosophy

A meet-up designed to discuss current issues in Tennessee state politics in light of different political philosophies.  Residents of Tennessee's 50th House District (Bellevue, Joelton, Goodlettsville) especially encouraged but open to everyone with a concern for Tennessee's political future. Some topics to consider are Taxation, Education, Private Property, Religious and Firearms' Rights from a conservative, libertarian, or practical perspective.

This meetup is connected with the Bill Bernstein Campaign for TN House District 50 but will NOT be involved in campaigning, fund raising and the like. Link

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Republican eight-state rule does not apply to the 2016 Convention.

One of the obstacles that has presumed to have been in the way of any candidate except Donald Trump having their name placed in nomination at the Republican convention was a rule that required a candidate to have won  the primary or the caucus in at least eight states or territories in order to have his name placed in nomination.  This rule was instituted in 2012 as a move to stop Ron Paul from having his name in nomination. Paul could not have won the nomination but he could have fired up his supporters and highlighted discord within the party.  If that rule was to apply to the upcoming 2016 nomination, then at this time, only Donald Trump would be eligible to seek the nomination. Most likely Donald Trump would still be the only candidate meeting that threshold by convention time.

One thing that was never clear to me is how a delegate could cast their vote for a name not in nomination. Most States have laws that say delegates must vote for the candidate for whom they are pledged on the first ballot.  In Tennessee, delegates must vote for the candidate to whom they are pledged on the first two ballots. How does one cast a vote for a name not in nomination?  I don't know. 

In any event, the rule that required a candidate to have won eight states or territories does not apply in 2016, Republican officials have said. Republican officials will meet in Cleveland just prior to the convention itself to draw up rules for 2016.

While I want to see Donald Trump stopped, if Trump has close to the necessary 1,237 delegates by convention time and rules are manipulated to give the nomination to another candidate, Trump supporters which justly be outraged. If the Party alienates the Trump Republicans, the election will be handed to Hillary Clinton. Republicans need to walk a thin line between offering a path to the nomination for a nominee other than Trump and stealing the election. How and where exactly to draw that line is a challenge.

To read more about this follow this link: GOP insiders: Nominee won't be limited to winner of 8 states.



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Saturday, March 19, 2016

Senator Jim Tracy, Representative Glen Casada and others disappoint in pushing the national popular vote proposal.

I am extremely disappointed in Senator Jim Tracy, Representative Glen Casada and others for pushing the proposed end-run around the constitution to, in-effect, change our system of electing a President from one in which the states have a voice to a national popular vote in which the states have no voice.

Senator Tracy is the State Senate sponsor of a bill which would require that Tennessee's electors to the electoral college cast their vote for the presidential candidate who won the most votes nationwide for the office of president, disregarding the wishes of Tennessee voters. Glen Casada is one of the sponsors in the house.

Our founding fathers designed a system of a republican federal democracy in which the states had a voice. That is why each state, regardless of their population, have two Senators. The electoral college is an essential part of our federalist system. Changing our system will mean a candidate for president would only have to win New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and a couple other cities and they could ignore the rest of the nation. In addition to this issues about the structure of our government and how a national popular vote would change the dynamic of consensus building in our current system, a system of national popular vote would make it much easier to steal an election. With a national popular vote, instead of examining hanging chads in Florida in 2000 election, every single vote cast for President anywhere in the nation would have had to have had the same scrutiny. We would still be counting votes!

I know Senator Tracy and Representative Glen Casada are usually strong conservatives who support our Constitutional democracy. What happened to them to cause them to support this radical proposal, I don't know, but I am very disappointing.

To learn more about this issue see the following video.


These are the pending bills that need to be defeated:  SB 1657 by *Tracy , Briggs; HB 1728 by *Sexton C , Marsh, Lundberg, Brooks K, McManus, Travis, Powers, Johnson, Casada Election Laws -  As introduced, adopts the interstate compact to elect the president by national popular vote.


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State Legislative update for week ending 3/19/2016

The following is produced by the staff of the State legislature and many state senators and representatives include it in their newsletter to constituents.


Legislation calling for Public Private Partnerships to meet growing transportation needs advances 

Legislation that would provide a framework to allow Private Public Partnership (P3) agreements for certain transportation projects advanced through the Senate Transportation and Safety Committee this week.  The bill aims to improve safety, reduce congestion and increase capacity on Tennessee’s roads, as well as encourage economic growth.

Typically with a P3 agreement, the public sector maintains ownership of the asset but the private partner manages construction, operation, and maintenance through the life of the contract.

Senate Bill 2093 authorizes partnerships between private entities and state and local governments for the private development, redevelopment and operation of transportation facilities.  Transportation facilities are defined, under the bill, to include any mass transit system intended for shared passenger transport services to the general public.

The bill authorizes a state or local government entity, or agencies created by them, to receive, consider, evaluate and accept proposals for a qualifying transportation facility.  It details the procedures for doing so, including that the private entity must first obtain state approval before entering into a comprehensive agreement with the state or local government. The request must also be reviewed by the legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee prior to the agreement to ensure transparency and oversight.  Under the proposal, any project estimated to be over $50 million would require an independent audit to be paid for by the private entity.   This audit will be subject to public disclosure, other than proprietary information.  If any state funds are expended for the purposes of a P3 agreement, it must be appropriated in the general appropriations act.

The bill now goes to the Senate Finance Committee for consideration.

Legislation aiming to cut fraud and abuse in Tennessee’s welfare system approved by State Senate

Legislation aiming to reduce fraud and abuse in Tennessee’s welfare system was approved by the State Senate this week.  The proposal, sponsored by Senator Jim Tracy (R-Shelbyville), makes substantial changes to the way the Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS) contracts and monitors third-party agencies that receive taxpayer money to feed children and adults.

The legislation comes after comptroller audits and investigations that identified financial mismanagement and fraud within some of the federal food programs administered by DHS.  Approximately $80 million flows through DHS for program services. 

“The Department of Human Services provides services to some of the most vulnerable citizens of our state,” said Senator Tracy.  “This bill ensures that money designated for those in need is spent in the most efficient and effective manner, while at the same time protecting taxpayer money from fraud and abuse.”

Senate Bill 1472 directs DHS to conduct background checks on each applicant of the subrecipient or sponsoring organization.  It also requires sponsoring organizations applying to participate in any food program administered through the department to obtain and maintain a performance bond.  If the contract is awarded, the department must perform both unannounced and announced physical site visits during the subrecipient monitoring process and report their findings.  Similarly, DHS must develop sub-recipient monitoring plans, under the bill, utilizing analytical procedures that must be submitted to certain legislative leaders and the state comptroller on an annual basis.  In addition, the bill requires the inspector general of DHS must submit a report summarizing the results of any substantiated investigations concerning fraud, waste and abuse regarding the child and adult care food program and summer food service program every three months.

The bill is pending action in the Finance, Ways and Means Committee in the House of Representatives.
Legislation protecting Tennessee farms advances in State Senate

Legislation protecting Tennessee’s farming industry advanced in the Senate this week as the Judiciary Committee approved an amendment to the state’s Right to Farm Act.  Senate Bill 2591 clamps down on illegitimate nuisance suits by removing the standard regarding nuisance actions on new types of farming operations.  The bill, which is sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris (R-Collierville), requires the same burden of proof for nuisance action for these farms as used in established farming operations.

“If you look at the state seal, the wording most prominent across the middle is ‘agriculture,” said Senator Norris.   “Agriculture remains the biggest business that Tennessee embraces and at the same time, we’re concerned about the continued loss of farm land and farm operations, not only across the United States, but here in Tennessee, as well.  As development expands and land use changes, those in the farming business need to be vouchsafe.  They need to have their heritage and their livelihood, the opportunity to pursue it, preserved.  This bill helps in those efforts.”

The proposal establishes a rebuttable presumption that a farm is not a public or private nuisance unless overcome by a preponderance of the evidence that either the farm does not conform to generally accepted agricultural practices or those set by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Environment and Conservation.  The bill would not affect legitimate cases of nuisance like the improper use of pesticides, herbicides or disposing of waste improperly.

“This bill removes the standard as it relates to new types of farming operations, simply saying that if you’re farming, you’re farming and you have a rebuttable presumption.  There is no distinction between existing’ and new types of farms,” Norris continued.

“As people decide they want to live in the beautiful bucolic country, they don’t realize that there’s an industry going on there, called agriculture, and this helps to protect that,” added Senator Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma) who is co-sponsoring the bill.

The measure now goes to the floor of the Senate where it could be scheduled as early as next week.

In other farm news this week, the full Senate approved legislation which gives the Commissioner of Agriculture authority to regulate seeds that are sold, purchased and planted in Tennessee.  Senate Bill 1934, sponsored by Senator Ken Yager (R-Kingston), aims to reduce the risk of potentially harmful seeds from other parts of the world coming into the state.  The bill now goes to the governor for his signature.
Senate passes cybersecurity legislation to protect Tennessee Consumers

Cybersecurity legislation was passed by the State Senate this week tightening up Tennessee’s law regarding breach notification requirements to protect consumers.  The bill is sponsored by Senator Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro).

“With more and more personal information stored electronically, there is a growing need to protect personal information, funds and assets,” said Senator Ketron.  “This bill moves Tennessee law forward in adapting to the ever-changing landscape of the cyber world and the threats that come as a result.”

Presently, Tennessee law requires a person, state agency, or business that owns or licenses computerized data that includes personal information to disclose any discovered breach of the security of the system to Tennessee residents whose unencrypted personal information may have been acquired by an unauthorized person.  The law, however, does not affect encrypted information even though a growing number of breaches involve encrypted data as the methods used by criminals become more sophisticated.  The time frame for this notification is also not specified under current law, simply saying it should be made in the most expedient time possible and without reasonable delay.

Senate Bill 2005 specifies that an unauthorized user includes employees of the information holder and that a breach of the security system includes the unauthorized acquisition of all computerized data, whether encrypted or unencrypted. It further requires that the notification requirement to disclose a breach be made immediately, but no later than 45 days from the discovery or notification of the breach or, in the event the disclosure is delayed due to the needs of law enforcement, no later than 45 days after the law enforcement agency determines that the disclosure will not compromise a criminal investigation.

According to the Credit Union National Association, it is estimated that the 2013 Target breach cost credit unions over $30 million and the 2014 Home Depot breach is estimated to have cost even more.  These costs include notifying customers of the breach, reissuing credit and debit cards, closing and reopening member accounts, refunding fraudulent charges, stopping and blocking payments and increasing fraud monitoring.

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